Numbers that shift power dynamics

A group of friends started a petition in support of inclusive education for differently-abled  children. As the number of supporters grew, so does those who disagree with our tactic.

Using our campaign’s hashtag, someone posted that they’re not sure if our petition will work, a fair opinion especially if you’ve never attempted to campaign using one nor have signed on one that won. It’s always easy to dismiss something we’re unfamiliar.

Being in the non-profit sector, petitions are no-brainer. Oftentimes, we do it instinctively. It’s (almost) always our first entry point for new audiences to join our campaign. However, for most common folks (I’m using this term loosely), petition seems to be just a number’s game. The more entry you’ve got, the more chances of winning. That is, somewhat, true.

Beyond numbers, they are not engaged (either by choice or lack of deeper engagement by campaigners themselves) into the whole journey of campaigning. This creates a disconnect to their sense of ownership to the issue at hand.

So what made us decide to use the petition as our main tactic? It’s simple, we ask ourselves this main question, “why do you need the numbers anyway?” And our answers are these:

  • We want to expose the issue. There are rumors running around and no one seems to find any clarity. The idea is that, the more people know you’re looking for answers, the more of them can give you information. Most often than not, the right people would have the right answer;
  • We want to bring awareness. Once we found the answer, we provided clarity to confusions and questions bring to light the real issue at hand. Simple issues sometimes are rooted to a more systemic societal problems. We would like to highlight that this issue is not only an issue of a limited few but of society at large;
  • We want to bring the issue to public discourse. We want to hear people’s thoughts. We want to hear what they would do if faced with similar predicaments. We want to know how else we can further this campaign by bringing more hearts, hands and mind in the pot.

We recognized that petitions are good entry points for our campaign. It elevates the issue beyond decision makers and affected parties. It removes the veil of secrecy to bring transparency. It ensures public accountability.

But petitions are only as good as to where you bring them afterwards. Petitions are addressed to specific targets, or the who-can-bring-about-the-change-you-desire. These are decision-makers. You have to make your targets aware you are targeting them. They have to feel you. And one-way to ensure that is to create noise. And with more people comes more noise. Similarly, if you believe in the concept of 6-degrees of separation, somehow, somewhere, someone is connected to your target. Create your breadth to reach distance.

Since we are in the early stage of our campaign, the next questions to ask ourselves are, how many of those who signed up are willing to engage further? Who among them, if not all, are willing to give more? Will they give their time, sweat or money? How many of them are willing to go beyond signatures? We need to create a bigger ask (commitment) to bring about a bigger impact.

Over-all, a good petition aims to shift power dynamics. Because behind every signature is a face.  These are people who believe that your cause is worth fighting for. These are people willing to vouch their names for truth and justice. They are those willing to push boundaries because they know that together, they can.

So in the future, when you encounter another petition (for sure, you will), and you support the issue but still find that the tactic is not right. It’s okay, BUT, do not simply dismiss it. Ask yourself, “what else can I do?” Because there’s always something we can do.

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On safe spaces

Safe spaces are refuge. Its foundations are openness, trust and respect. It builds communal courage to fight wrongs.

What makes these spaces safe is the willingness and determination of people to make it so. Without the intent and energy of these people, it is impossible to create one.

Hoping to gain safe spaces is not as easy as one could hope for. It takes time to build. It requires letting go of egos, preconceived notions and fears. It means building trust. It means honesty. It’s about accepting truths more than your own and recognizing multitude of perceptions and emotions.

As it is not a tangible space, creating its atmosphere means pouring and pooling all your energy in. Everyone is responsible in maintaining its foundation intact. It is very fragile, thus, very susceptible to maliciousness  and doubts.

Other would say that safe spaces are not truly safe as it reinforces the vulnerability that one faces outside its realm. But those who espouses safe spaces believe that there is actual strength and courage built upon them.

Creating safe space is hard work OR not. Again, it’s about people and their intent to make it so.

On mothering and motherhood

So Bakotoy is now 19 weeks old. And I am now back to work.

One night when I was nursing her, I suddenly had these random thoughts:

  • Maiksi lang ang pisi ko pag dating sa ibang bagay. Kaya nagugulat na lang ako na kahit sipain, lawayan, gisingin o iyakan lang ako ng iyakan ni Bakotoy eh di ko kayang magalit o mainis sa kanya. Kasama na siguro yun noh? Ginawa mo, panindigan mo!
  • Fear and awe. Yan ang nararamdaman ko tuwing tinititigan ko siya sa madaling araw.And I don’t think mawawala ito any time soon.
  • I made big and random decisions for her that I would never even consider before. And I will continue making them for her and with her when she’s able to make them.
  • Isa lang sa birth plan ko ang nasunod. Room-in siya kaagad. Ito ay pagkatapos ng mahabang labor na nauwi sa emergency CS. Lesson? Mag unang yakap agad pero bigyan mo rin ang sarili mong mag-recover beyond recovery room time. Or better kung may next time pa, VBAC!
  • Take as much suggestions from people around you. Pero sa huli, ikaw ang nanay. And ultimately, ikaw ang magdedesisyon.
  • Not doing what other people “suggests” does not make you an asshole. Not listening to them will.

Mothering and motherhood is a lifetime job. It requires full commitment. It requires that you make decisions that may or may not be favorable for other people. But that’s okay. How I do things, is how I do things. I have no right to judge how other mothers mother. I can only judge myself (with note that I should not be harsh to myself too).We have our own journey in ensuring that our children becomes the best version of themselves, and if not, to love them anyway.

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My cute little bunny ❤

The struggle is real: On skeptical mothers and breastfeeding!

Last Sunday, I attended a breastfeeding seminar called, “Tamang Hakab: Gabay sa Pagpapasuso.” It was organized by Breastfeeding Pinays, a group that seeks to “provide support and information to families who are interested in breastfeeding.” It basically introduced us to the importance of breastfeeding, proper breastfeeding and how to battle and win breastfeeding challenges i.e. working mothers, etc. Most of the participants are not first time mothers but those who, in my opinion, need support in their future breastfeeding endeavors.

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I didn’t have much questions during the seminar knowing that in my circle of friends I have the support I needed. It was discussed that to overcome difficulties we need to choose the right Circle of Support in our journey and for that I am very thankful. However, as a single-mother-to-be, I don’t have an immediate partner to depend on, us being on a long distance relationship. My baby will be mostly at home after I start working again. This means she will be mostly with her lola/grandmother or nanny.

Right after the seminar, I went home and shared my learnings to my very skeptical mother (I used the term skeptical because even before I attended it, she already told me her experiences with us 3. She only breastfed until her maternity leave and resorted to formula there after. No judgement on my end, she needed to do what she thought was best at that time). Excited as I was, I told her about cupfeeding, milk storing and other post-maternity leave information I got. In the course of my sharing, she suddenly blurted out that she should have attended with me so she can tell the counselors (which she automatically assumed are new mothers) that what they called as myths are real life experiences of other mothers. She enumerated several like inverted nipple, mothers to tired after work, baby getting used to mother’s breasts, etc. I believe that half of what she said was true but I rebutted that more the reason to discredit those myths. And why the need to tell the counselors off?!? We kept arguing until I can’t take it anymore. I told her I just need her support and no need for all those negativity, at dahil hindi magpapatalo ang nanay ko, siya pa rin ang may huling say.

The crybaby that I am. I resorted to walking out and just texted her to say what I can’t seem to tell her without tears:

“Mahirap bang supportahan yung mga life choices ko tulad ng breastfeeding? Ok naman maging skeptical na di nagiging negative or unsupportive. Yung kailangan lang eh willing to try. Pero di pa nangyayari kokontra ka na agad. Di ka man lang nakikinig. Sana mas maging supportive ka naman sana. Nirerespeto ko life choices mo noon pero iba na ang panahon ngayon. May mas space na ang mga kababaihan na i-experience ang motherhood kahit nagtatrabaho. Sana mas maging bukas isip mo Ma. Di ko naman kailangan na turuan mo ako along the way. Pang uunawa at suporta lang.”

After some thought, what frustrated me more with our conversation is not much about what she said (because the struggle is real, a lot women experiences breastfeeding challenges brought by different circumstances) but how she said them. I felt defeated in the thought that if I cannot convince my mother to support me in this, how else can I make other people change their mindset about the whole concept?

I still don’t know what to do. My emotions got the best in me in that situation. I know I should have let the idea rests in her first. BUT I WAS TOO EXCITED! I have wanted her full support there and then. It’s the bunso in me that wanted her assurance immediately. It’s also my circumstance of being single-mom-to-be that I want to make sure that I have people to depend on when the going gets rough. Who else to turn to than your family?

For now, I am resorting to peer counseling and online readings. Hopefully, before my due date, I can come up with ways to convince my mother that we can do it (#umaasa #wishfulthinking). She is, after all, the second person in my Circle of Support. The first being me and Bakotoy.

Anyway, for those future working mothers in the Philippines, here are some links that can help you make your home, hospital and workplace more conducive to supporting Unang Yakap and breastfeeding:

First official #dyowntis photo :D

Dyowntis is an endearing play of words, constructed by a very good friend. Dyown (tagalized spelling of my name, Joan) + buntis (Filipino for pregnant). So it basically means, Joan is pregnant. -___-

preggyphotoLast month, people would simply assume I drink too much. Some of my colleagues were even “complaining” how I don’t look pregnant. I did lose some weight during my first trimester. I was lucky not to experience morning sickness, but I did lose my appetite. I bounced back after increasing my calcium intake so I’m slowly progressing and gaining weight in the process.

I’m almost done with my second trimester. And the biggest challenge so far is constipation and hemorrhoids. The non-glamorous side of pregnancy. My doctor insists that I refrain from using chemical remedies to somehow alleviate the pain and stress. And I’m glad she’s not that kind of OB, those take-these-meds kind. She simply advises that I do steam seat and increase intake of fibrous food such as papaya, oats, pineapple, etc. It seems to be working though my bowel movements often go to the extreme. Crossing my finger it stays this way until the last weeks. #wishfulthinking

So now that I’m off to my third trimester, my bump is now spherical and proud. I am no longer the beer belly lady. I am now a full pledge hot-momma-to-be (or at least I like to imagine). I still forget at times that I have this huge ball in front of me, bumping to tables and people. But hey, now I have my preggy excuse card. Lol.

Happy 26 weeks and 6 days Bakotoy ko, nanay loves you! ❤

On my pregnancy: “I’ve been having it easy. Well, constipation and hemorrhoids is never easy!”

I have a different plan for my life 5 months ago (if you can call traveling to wherever my feet takes me as a plan). I got the biggest surprise when I got two lines in 3 pregnancy test kits (yes, just to make sure), which was then confirmed via ultrasound that I was, in deed, 4 weeks pregnant (the medical term is gestational age).

I’m in my 26 weeks now. And to be honest, despite constant back aches, frequent bathroom breaks and extreme bowel movements (from constipation to diarrhea), I’ve been having it easy. Well, constipation and hemorrhoids is never easy! But what I mean is that, pregnancy being a life altering experience to most women, it seems that these changes are actually good, if not the best things that had happened to me.

I have tons of fears. I do. Am I really financially ready? Am I emotionally ready? Will I travel less now? Will my performance at work be affected? Will I be a boring friend? Can I make it as a single mom? Will I be a good mother? Can I give my baby girl (yes, my imagined life came true, yay!) a bright future? I have those questions running around my mind 24/7. Every week that passes and the nearer I get to my due date, the more uncertainties there are. But I still feel that I have it easy.

Or maybe because I conditioned myself that despite all of these fears and constant challenges I face everyday, I’d rather give my baby all my energy. All my positive energy. And I do remember answering a colleague’s question on how am I, him pertaining to my pregnancy, that I am actually good. I told him, I still don’t know what to do beyond giving birth though. But I guess I’ll know soon enough.

babygirlBakotoy (her Igorot name) when she was 7 weeks old ❤

Information that Matters

It’s about sharing information that matters.

In an era where most people are connected, in one way or another, in various social networking sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook, one must wonder what kind of information are actually getting shared. We are glued in 24/7 in these sites, constantly browsing for things that will spike up our interests. Liking, reblogging, retweeting and commenting on things we find relevant. Relentlessly trying to make sense of stories sometimes far far away.

It might sound like a futile exercise. Sitting in front of a computer. Holding a tablet. Browsing your smartphone. But it actually gives you power in what kind of message you put out in the world. It is ordinary, but nevertheless, powerful.

What I’m trying to say, which I’m having a hard time explaining (disclaimer: I haven’t blogged for such a long time), think before you share anything with your friends, family or acquaintances. Make sure that it is an information that matters. Read or watch it first before you share it. Understand the message you want to share with them that you can have meaningful discussions afterwards. I am a victim of sharing and liking links that I haven’t actually really “click”. What I realized is that I am missing a lot of good insights and points. That I am becoming a prophet with false messages. Be responsible to the messages you put out in the world. Use it properly and wisely.

But of course, some spoofs and gags are good too at times 😀